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Breaking News in the Industry: November 29, 2018

ORC unit arrests 71

With holiday shopping in full swing, Knox County’s Organized Retail Crime Unit in Mississippi is working harder than ever. This past Thanksgiving weekend, they arrested 66 adults, five minors and recovered just under $25,000 in stolen or fraudulently purchased property. While petty theft is common nationwide, organized retail crime is a particular problem in East Tennessee. That’s multiple people working together to steal certain items that are often sold online or at other stores for profit.

Lawmakers say until something is done about the opioid crisis, these big thefts will keep happening. State Representative Jason Zachary passed a bill in 2015 that made the creation of an Organize Retail Crime Unit possible for Knox County and other departments statewide. Since then, dozens of crime rings have been infiltrated in our area. “They’ve been able to make some significant busts over just the last couple weeks, some of those related to entities out of state that have tried to come in,” said Zachary. The Knox County Sheriff’s Office reports so far this year, Belk, Home Depot and Kohl’s are the stores where they’ve recovered the most stolen merchandise.     [Source: WBIR10 News]

Credit card fraudster gets probation

An Illinois man caught with 19 counterfeit credit cards will serve time on probation in his home state after pleading guilty to fraud. Waltae Blount, 36, accepted an agreement from the prosecutor that called for him to plead guilty to one of the five criminal counts filed against him earlier this year.

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Investigators believe the man had used the fake credit cards — which bore actual numbers stolen from accounts all over the country — to make purchases at stores in several states before he was caught, court documents state. As a result, he’ll serve two years on probation in Illinois. If he violates his probation, he could be ordered to an Indiana Department of Correction prison to serve out whatever time remains of his sentence plus an additional year.

An officer stopped his rented minivan after clocking it at 81 mph along County Road 500W. The speed limit in the area is 55 mph. Blount cooperated with investigators and allowed them to search the car, according to court documents. Inside, police found 19 Visa cards stuffed under the passenger seat. All 19 cards had different account numbers and listed either Blount or Colbert as the account holder, court documents state. None of the cards was electronically connected to a financial institution. Nor were the numbers on the front of the card programmed into the magnetic strip on the back, according to court documents.   [Source: Daily Reporter]

Fewer shoppers were out, but sales are strong

With discounts starting early and more days to shop before Christmas this year, fewer people turned out for the five-day shopping extravaganza that runs from Thanksgiving Day to Cyber Monday, a retail industry trade group said Tuesday. But holiday shoppers still have long lists of gifts to buy and plenty of days to do it, giving the National Retail Federation confidence it will be a robust holiday season.

More than 165 million Americans shopped either online or in stores from Thanksgiving Day to Cyber Monday this year, down from more than 174 million in 2017, NRF revealed. The industry’s trade group is still calling for holiday sales to increase between 4.3 percent and 4.8 percent, emphasizing Tuesday it expects growth will come on the higher end of that range. Shoppers say they still have more than half, or 56 percent, of their holiday shopping left to do, NRF found in polling 3,058 consumers between Nov. 24 and 25. Ninety-two percent of consumers think the deals they saw during Thanksgiving weekend will either continue or improve for the remainder of the year.

The average shopper spent $313.29 on gifts and other holiday items from Thanksgiving Day to Cyber Monday, according to NRF, down from $335.47 last year. And more and more of those dollars are being spent online. NRF said more than 89 million people shopped both online and in stores this holiday season, up roughly 40 percent from a year ago.

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It’s already been reported that this year a record $6.22 billion was spent online Black Friday, with $3.7 billion spent online Thanksgiving Day. The top destinations for shopping this past weekend, according to NRF’s survey, were department stores (42 percent), online retailers (38 percent) and apparel retailers (30 percent). Cyber Monday was the most popular day to shop online, while Black Friday was the most popular day to shop in stores.   [Source: CNBC News]

USPS employee convicted gift card theft from mail

A U.S. Postal employee in Ohio has been convicted to six months in prison for stealing gift cards from Willowick and Eastlake. The U.S. Postal Service’s Office of Inspector General had received complaints about mail not being delivered on Sonte Gibbons’ route. Agents mailed 10 first-class mail pieces that contained a greeting card and a gift card or cash. Only 3 of the 10 letters were delivered, according to a press release from the Department of Justice.

Gibbons redeemed one of the gift cards while wearing his postal uniform, according to court documents. “As the holidays approach, this case is a good reminder that people should be cautious about sending cash or gift cards in the mail,” U.S. Attorney Justin Herdman said. “The vast majority of postal employees are dedicated workers, but this case reminds us that there are always Grinches among us.” To report postal employee misconduct, contact USPS OIG special agents at 888.USPS.OIG.   [Source: Fox8 News]

Taking a bite out of crime: K9 unit takes down robber

A K9 officer is credited with apprehending a suspect Monday accused of trying to rob a CVS Pharmacy of multiple narcotics. Officers of the Sidney Police Department report Khavaughn Anquan Cochran, 21, of Dayton, Ohio,  attempted to take approximately $1,000 worth of oxycodone and hydrocodone from the retail pharmacy about 1 PM.

Police dispatchers received a call from CVS employees alerting them of the robbery, and that the suspect had fled northbound on foot. The suspect had reportedly passed a note to the pharmacy employees threatening harm if they did not comply with his direction. Cochran had his hand in his pocket, leading employees to believe he may have been carrying a gun, according to reports. Officers arrived and “flooded” the scene, K9 officer Kilo was released and caught and stopped the suspect in the area. Cochran was charged with robbery, a second-degree felony, and two counts of possession of drugs, second-degree felonies.    [Source: Bellfontain Examiner]

Record breaking retail holiday spending

It’s official: Black Friday and Cyber Monday are still shopping bonanzas for retailers. Mastercard estimated sales on Black Friday hit $23 billion, surging 9 percent from last year. Cyber Monday may have seen as much as a 19 percent increase from last year, Adobe Analytics predicted. (The final numbers are not yet out.) Although it will take several weeks for the dust to settle, traditional players have emerged as early winners in the holiday shake out. Traffic at Walmart, Target, Best Buy, and Kohl’s was strong on Black Friday and into the weekend, analysts say.

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Black Friday and Cyber Monday were Amazon’s biggest shopping days in its history. Customers bought more than 180 million items from Thanksgiving to Cyber Monday, the company said. The early results signal that retailers got a lift from a strong economy, convenient new ways to spend, and the demise of former rivals. All five companies’ stock prices rose on Monday, reflecting investor optimism for the holidays.

Although fewer shoppers turned out at brick-and-mortar stores, more bought on online and on their smartphones. Overall, traffic to physical stores dipped 1% on Thanksgiving and Black Friday compared to 2017, according to ShopperTrak, a retail consultancy that monitors in-store traffic. Digital analytics firm RetailNext said traffic declined 6.6% during the four-day weekend compared to a year ago. “This was a great Black Friday. Consumers came out in droves and retailers stepped up efforts around inventory and servicing,” said Marshal Cohen, chief industry adviser at NPD Group.    [Source: WFTS Tampa Bay News]

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